Fox News - Our viewers will believe anything

Fox News - Our viewers will believe anything previously pointed out Bill O’Reilly’s use of propaganda techniques. Now, Dr. Cynthia Boaz at has doubled that list and have provided evidence of the techniques used by Fox News.

  1. Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment. From Muslims to swine flu to recession to homosexuals to immigrants to the rapture itself, the belief over at Fox seems to be that if your fight-or-flight reflexes aren’t activated, you aren’t alive. This of course raises the question: why terrorize your own audience? Because it is the fastest way to bypass the rational brain. In other words, when people are afraid, they don’t think rationally. And when they can’t think rationally, they’ll believe anything.
  2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem. Fox does not like to waste time debating the idea. Instead, they prefer a quicker route to dispensing with their opponents: go after the person’s credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or, if necessary, sanity. No category of character assassination is off the table and no offense is beneath them. Fox and like-minded media figures also use ad hominem attacks not just against individuals, but entire categories of people in an effort to discredit the ideas of every person who is seen to fall into that category, e.g. “liberals,” “hippies,” “progressives” etc. This form of argument – if it can be called that – leaves no room for genuine debate over ideas, so by definition, it is undemocratic. Not to mention just plain crass.
  3. Projection/Flipping. This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. We see this frequently in the immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It’s often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.
  4. Rewriting History. This is another way of saying that propagandists make the facts fit their worldview. The Downing Street Memos on the Iraq war were a classic example of this on a massive scale, but it happens daily and over smaller issues as well. A recent case in point is Palin’s mangling of the Paul Revere ride, which Fox reporters have bent over backward to validate. Why lie about the historical facts, even when they can be demonstrated to be false? Well, because dogmatic minds actually find it easier to reject reality than to update their viewpoints. They will literally rewrite history if it serves their interests. And they’ll often speak with such authority that the casual viewer will be tempted to question what they knew as fact.
  5. Scapegoating/Othering. This works best when people feel insecure or scared. It’s technically a form of both fear mongering and diversion, but it is so pervasive that it deserves its own category. The simple idea is that if you can find a group to blame for social or economic problems, you can then go on to a) justify violence/dehumanization of them, and b) subvert responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result.
  6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness. This is more of what I’d call a “meta-frame” (a deeply held belief) than a media technique, but it is manifested in the ways news is reported constantly. For example, terms like “show of strength” are often used to describe acts of repression, such as those by the Iranian regime against the protesters in the summer of 2009. There are several concerning consequences of this form of conflation. First, it has the potential to make people feel falsely emboldened by shows of force – it can turn wars into sporting events. Secondly, especially in the context of American politics, displays of violence – whether manifested in war or debates about the Second Amendment – are seen as noble and (in an especially surreal irony) moral. Violence becomes synonymous with power, patriotism and piety.
  7. Bullying. This is a favorite technique of several Fox commentators. That it continues to be employed demonstrates that it seems to have some efficacy. Bullying and yelling works best on people who come to the conversation with a lack of confidence, either in themselves or their grasp of the subject being discussed. The bully exploits this lack of confidence by berating the guest into submission or compliance. Often, less self-possessed people will feel shame and anxiety when being berated and the quickest way to end the immediate discomfort is to cede authority to the bully. The bully is then able to interpret that as a “win.”
  8. Confusion. As with the preceding technique, this one works best on an audience that is less confident and self-possessed. The idea is to deliberately confuse the argument, but insist that the logic is airtight and imply that anyone who disagrees is either too dumb or too fanatical to follow along. Less independent minds will interpret the confusion technique as a form of sophisticated thinking, thereby giving the user’s claims veracity in the viewer’s mind.
  9. Populism. This is especially popular in election years. The speakers identifies themselves as one of “the people” and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always “elitist” or a “bureaucrat” or a “government insider” or some other category that is not the people. The idea is to make the opponent harder to relate to and harder to empathize with. It often goes hand in hand with scapegoating. A common logical fallacy with populism bias when used by the right is that accused “elitists” are almost always liberals – a category of political actors who, by definition, advocate for non-elite groups.
  10. Invoking the Christian God. This is similar to othering and populism. With morality politics, the idea is to declare yourself and your allies as patriots, Christians and “real Americans” (those are inseparable categories in this line of thinking) and anyone who challenges them as not. Basically, God loves Fox and Republicans and America. And hates taxes and anyone who doesn’t love those other three things. Because the speaker has been benedicted by God to speak on behalf of all Americans, any challenge is perceived as immoral. It’s a cheap and easy technique used by all totalitarian entities from states to cults.
  11. Saturation. There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. The message must be repeated over and over, it must be everywhere and it must be shared across commentators: e.g. “Saddam has WMD.” Veracity and hard data have no relationship to the efficacy of saturation. There is a psychological effect of being exposed to the same message over and over, regardless of whether it’s true or if it even makes sense, e.g., “Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.” If something is said enough times, by enough people, many will come to accept it as truth. Another example is Fox’s own slogan of “Fair and Balanced.”
  12. Disparaging Education. There is an emerging and disturbing lack of reverence for education and intellectualism in many mainstream media discourses. In fact, in some circles (e.g. Fox), higher education is often disparaged as elitist. Having a university credential is perceived by these folks as not a sign of credibility, but of a lack of it. In fact, among some commentators, evidence of intellectual prowess is treated snidely and as anti-American. The disdain for education and other evidence of being trained in critical thinking are direct threats to a hive-mind mentality, which is why they are so viscerally demeaned.
  13. Guilt by Association. This is a favorite of Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart, both of whom have used it to decimate the careers and lives of many good people. Here’s how it works: if your cousin’s college roommate’s uncle’s ex-wife attended a dinner party back in 1984 with Gorbachev’s niece’s ex-boyfriend’s sister, then you, by extension are a communist set on destroying America. Period.
  14. Diversion. This is where, when on the ropes, the media commentator suddenly takes the debate in a weird but predictable direction to avoid accountability. This is the point in the discussion where most Fox anchors start comparing the opponent to Saul Alinsky or invoking ACORN or Media Matters, in a desperate attempt to win through guilt by association. Or they’ll talk about wanting to focus on “moving forward,” as though by analyzing the current state of things or God forbid, how we got to this state of things, you have no regard for the future. Any attempt to bring the discussion back to the issue at hand will likely be called deflection, an ironic use of the technique of projection/flipping.


It’s an amazing, if not depressing, look at our society’s perception of news, politics and each other, manipulated by the marketing machine that is News Corp, parent company of Fox News. Many, if not all, of these techniques can be found employed by those working for any number of Rupert Murdoch’s properties around the world. Additionally, we’ve seen every one of these techniques used by Fox News fanboys defending Fox News, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, etc. Now that this list is being shared, be sure to keep an eye out for these propaganda techniques and be ready to call the fanboys out.

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9 Responses to “Propaganda Techniques Used by Fox News”

  1. nancy haun says:

    What a bunch of crap! This site is a prime example of Propaganda!

    • For what? Truth, honesty, integrity, all those things Fox News lacks? Okay, I can live with that…

      • No, for doing the same things you say FNC does, period.

        • You have the right to your opinion, but that’s all it is. I present articles and offer evidence of FNC’s propaganda and falsehoods. FNC presents propaganda and falsehoods as “news.” That is not the same thing. Clear enough for you, or do you want to try again and fail miserably, again?

          • Mary Bernsen says:

            The self-same arguments that you put forth to villify Fox News and its viwers can be applied to your site with equal accuracy. I know very personally many Fox viewers. They are anything but the simpleton sheep you seek to portray them as. They listen to not only Fox, but to other media voices as well. Then they discuss what they have heard and evaluate the meaning. Does Fox sensationalize? You bet they do! So what? I study history and I know that the Hearst media corporation was tarred with the epitaph of “yellow journalism”, particularly by its socialist opponents. Yet, Hearst had its say, as did its opponents, and the world was better for it. Why does Fox have to be silenced? You sound like the characters in Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 iconic novel “It Can’t Happen Here.” You scare me far more than Fox, because you want to silence Fox. If Fox is sooo bad, let it be. It will die a natural death.

          • Annie Mauss says:

            Brainwashed zombie Fox Network viewers can not be persuaded that they are being mislead. Their conviction is strong because its emotional, and fed with confirmation bias every day by the stooges and toadies for profiteers on Roger Aile’s GOP-TV. Your better off just calling these brainwashed, zombies names and illuminating their deranged emotional attachment to the profiteering treasonous group of broadcasters who practice propaganda and psyops on their fellow citizens.

            You left out jingoism, sensationalism, vivid anecdotes, plain folks appeals and sex appeals– which are all Fox Nation tools to gain control of hearts and minds of the weak who would hypnotize themselves to make the 1% wealthy beyond justice, fairness or any sense of the balance Fox claims to embrace with their false pretense and lies.

            Real Americans all agree– treasonous Fox stooges and their pathetic jingoist audience are a scourge on the nation and a drain on humanity.

  2. Fox is merely adapting Karl Rove’s well-worn playbook of dirty tricks for its own coprophagiaistic purposes. See: DECIPHERING THE KARL ROVE PLAYBOOK by Silverblatt, Bruns and Jensen.

  3. DOnt 4get that they inflate statistics as well

  4. Three egregious errors: Propaganda Technique 1) — ‘bypasses’ should be ‘bypass’; Propaganda Technique 6) — in last sentence ‘become’ should be ‘becomes’; Propaganda Technique 11) — in second sentence the word ‘cover’ should be ‘over’.


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